Even before it was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, Joanne Harris's "Chocolat" entranced readers with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and, of course, chocolate. Read more...
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Even before it was adapted into the Oscar-nominated film starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp, Joanne Harris's "Chocolat" entranced readers with its mix of hedonism, whimsy, and, of course, chocolate. Now, at last, "Chocolat"'s heroine returns to the beautiful French village of Lansquenet in another, equally beguiling tale.
When Vianne Rocher receives a letter from beyond the grave, she has no choice but to return to Lansquenet, where she once owned a chocolate shop and learned the meaning of home. But returning to one's past can be a dangerous pursuit, and Vianne and her daughters find the beautiful French village changed in unexpected ways: women veiled in black, the scent of spices in the air, and--facing the church--a minaret. Most surprising of all, her old nemesis, Francis Reynaud, desperately needs her help. Can Vianne work her magic once again?
Publishers Weekly® Reviews
- Reviewed in: Publishers Weekly, page .
- Review Date: 2012-09-03
- Reviewer: Staff
Harris returns to the setting and heroine that will be familiar to readers of her bestselling Chocolat series. Vianne Rocher is summoned back to the village of Lansquenet by a friend who is seeking to smooth tensions between the Christian community and new Muslim immigrants, bringing Vianne face to face with nemesis Fr. Francis Reynaud, the target of much of the immigrants' resentment. As Vianne spends time in the village, she becomes fascinated by Inès Bencharki, who, beneath her veil, is a flashpoint for discord between the communities. The more that Vianne investigates, the more puzzling seem the events happening in the village. And when people start dying, tensions soar, meaning it will take a miracle, or perhaps just an enchanted chocolatier, to save the town (again). Readers familiar with the Rochers will welcome the newest installment of their story, particularly as it addresses contemporary problems in a familiar setting. While new readers may be surprised by incongruous glimpses of magic, they will appreciate this sensitively told tale. Agent: Peter Robinson, RCW Literary. (Oct.)
'Chocolat' characters face a mini holy war
For readers with sweet memories of Joanne Harris’ 1999 bestseller Chocolat, the beloved novelist has served up another delicious literary treat. With Peaches for Father Francis, Harris returns to the charming French village of Lansquenet, and of course, so do many of Chocolat’s cast of characters, including mercurial matriarch Vianne; her partner, the enigmatic Roux; Vianne’s daughters, Anouk and Rosette; and the cantankerous yet endearing Father Francis Reynaud.
The story begins when Vianne receives a letter beckoning her back to the village from her current home aboard a houseboat in Paris. Though Roux declines to accompany Vianne, she is undeterred, following her heart and returning to a Lansquenet fraught with cultural tensions between the French townspeople and their new neighbors: a burgeoning community of Moroccan immigrants.
Indeed, Harris bravely embraces the messiness of a miniature holy war, with Catholics and Muslims alternating between fascination and fear regarding each other’s disparate religions and cultures. Surprisingly, Father Francis—her former nemesis—is now an unlikely ally in solving a mystery that threatens to destroy everything precious to both the French villagers and their increasingly restless new neighbors.
Harris’ elegant writing coexists alongside a plot that is in many ways a straight-up mystery, albeit one with a sprinkle of romance and a dash of mysticism. It all adds up to a novel that is adept at exploring misconceptions about Islamic traditions like the niqab (the face veil) as well as the challenges facing the Roman Catholic Church in Europe. Above all, Harris achieves what many lesser talents have found impossible: mesmerizing readers with a socially relevant plot, without ever becoming cliché, maudlin or forgetting that in the end, she is not a lecturer, but a storyteller.